The death of a Dream

(The title is with reference to the speech called ‘I have a dream’, by Martin Luther King for the end of racism in America.)


“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”[1]


25th of May 2020, was like any other day in Minneapolis, Minnesota. However, something happened that evening which brought back painful memories of America’s dark past. George Floyd, a forty-six year African-American man became a victim of police brutality to which he succumbed to. A little after 8 pm on the night of 25th May, the Minneapolis police was informed of an incident of forgery which was alleged in progress. It was said that George Floyd alleged attempted to use a counterfeit 20$ bill at a shop named Cup-Foods. Subsequent to this, he was approached by the police to come out of his car, where he apparently resisted. Following this, he was handcuffed and was made to lie face down on the street, wherein the arresting officer Derek Chauvin, kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and forty six seconds.[2] These eight minutes turned out to be fatal, for George Floyd never stood up again.[3]


Racial brutality in police custody is a common phenomenon in the United States. Over the years numerous innocent African-American have lost their lives as a result of racial violence and discrimination. The death of George Floyd, led to country wide protests, which led to the destruction of property and burning down of shops.[4] This incident brought back memories of violence against unarmed African- Americans at the hands of the police. It has been reported that in Minnesota itself, African-Americans are killed four times more than that of other people. They become 20% of the victims, in spite of the fact that they consists of only 5% of the entire population.[5]


International Law, has numerous treaties and conventions which prohibit racial discrimination. However, it seems to be all forgotten in times like these. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination or (ICERD) is a convention propagated by the United Nations, which conveys to its members to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination and promote peace and harmony among all. This came into force on 1969. Article 2 of the Convention condemns racial discrimination and obliges parties to,” undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms.”[6] Before, this convention came into place, it was the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which spoke about prohibiting and condemning racism in all forms. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, also emphasizes the fact that there cannot be discrimination or distinction on the basis of race.[7] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, through its provisions condemns discrimination on any racial basis.


The case of George Floyd is not an isolated incident. On July 17th 2014, an African-American, by the name of Eric Garner, was choked and suffocated to death by police in Staten Island, New York City, while they were arresting him. He too was an unarmed man. That time as well, the public erupted in protests, however, such incidents never stopped. In 2019, it was decided that the officers, would not be facing any federal charges. [8] The killing of George Floyd, like many others is a crime of racial discrimination and brutal use of police force.[9] Racial discrimination, though sounds a thing of the past, is very much a reality in the United States. It is still a common phenomenon seen multiple times over the last two decades. In 2016, Keith Lamont Scott, another African-American was brutally shot by policemen, when he allegedly tried to resist the police questioning. However, in this case as well, the policeman, Brentley Vinson, though put on administrative leave, was not prosecuted for the charges, for the shooting was deemed to be justified.


Discrimination based on race, is a phenomena, which has gone on in the United States for centuries. Slavery and racial discrimination is as old as the America Civilization. Racial segregation as a practice was upheld in the landmark judgment of Plessy v. Ferguson,[10] which established the doctrine of separate but equal. However, this controversial doctrine was overturned in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education[11]. In 1964, racial segregation was overruled in the case of Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States,[12] which also brought to end the Jim Crow laws. Subsequent to this, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was introduced, which outlawed any form of discrimination based on race, colour, sex for any public facilities and labour opportunities. Police violence against the African-Americans can be traced back to as far as 1919, in which the police did nothing to stop the barbaric violence against the black population, inflicted by the “whites.”[13]


The brutal killing of George Floyd, yet again shook the world. The slogan of “Black Lives Matter,” has spread to every corner of the world, for racial discrimination, though seen in the United States is not restricted to there. Many parts of the world, have faced the effects and consequences if racial discrimination. South Africa, was one such nation which bore the brunt of racial discrimination, in the form of Apartheid. The Sharpville Massacre of 1960, is an example of hatred against the colour population.[14]


In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr, gave the historic speech “I Have A Dream”, in Washington. That, dream was to see a world in which racism will not be present, a world, which will be free from the constraints of racial inequality and discrimination. However, the death of George Floyd, puts an end to that dream. Each time a life is lost due to one’s race, the fight that Dr King, Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks and many others started and fought is darkened. Racism is a grim reality which the world has been facing since time immemorial. And, with the incidents of George Floyd, Eric Garner, the reality becomes clearer. Even after, America saw its first African-American president, these incidents is evidence that there’s a long way to go before the dream of Dr King, is fulfilled.


Footnotes

[1] Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [2] Evan Hill, Ainara Tiefenthäler, Christiaan Triebert, Drew Jordan, Haley Willis and Robin Stein; 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds: How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody; May 31st 2020; https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/31/us/george-floyd-investigation.html [3] George Floyd: What happened in the final moments of his life; 30th Mat 2020; https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52861726 [4] Omar Jimenez, Nicole Chavez and Jason Hanna; As heated protests over George Floyd's death continue, Minnesota governor warns of 'extremely dangerous situation'; May 28th 2020; https://edition.cnn.com/2020/05/27/us/minneapolis-protests-george-floyd/index.html [5] Mohammed Haddad ;Mapping US police killings of Black Americans; 31st May 2020; https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2020/05/mapping-police-killings-black-americans-200531105741757.html [6] Article 2 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cerd.aspx [7] Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ [8] David Shortell; Barr sides against civil rights officials in declining to bring charges against NYPD officer in Garner case; July 16th 2019; https://edition.cnn.com/2019/07/16/politics/eric-garner-william-barr-nypd-officer-daniel-pantaleo/index.html [9] Peter Beaumont; ‘Rotten racism’: newspapers around the world react to George Floyd protests; June 1st 2010; https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/01/george-floyd-protests-editorials-worldwide [10] Plessy v. Ferguson; 163 U.S. 537 (1896). [11] Brown vs Board of Education; 347 U.S. 483 (1954). [12] Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States ; 379 U.S. 241 (1964). [13] Adam Green; How a Brutal Race Riot Shaped Modern Chicago; August 3rd 2019; https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/03/opinion/how-a-brutal-race-riot-shaped-modern-chicago.html?auth=login-email&login=email [14] Matthew McRae; The Sharpeville Massacre; https://humanrights.ca/story/the-sharpeville-massacre.


Submitted by,

Nayantara Bhattacharyya,

Senior Editor, AmicusX.

© 2019 by AmicusX